photos courtesy of Richard Immel; Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors
A subject that I have studied extensively and come back to every year is the “Best Non-NCAA Champions” at the DI level. Every year there is a new crop of seniors who end up falling short of their goals to become NCAA champions and put themselves in contention for this list that nobody strives to attain. It’s not my intention to make light of this, rather celebrate the excellent collegiate careers that these wrestlers have put together. Only ten wrestlers each year get to call themselves NCAA champions. Three seniors this season stood out as candidates who could make it onto my list of the “Best Non-NCAA Champions of the 2000’s,” and they are Brandon Sorensen (Iowa), Bo Jordan (Ohio State) and Adam Coon (Michigan). So what I have done is dissect each and every match of these wrestlers careers and compare them to a group of wrestlers whom I already have labeled as the top 15 Non-NCAA champions of the 2000’s. I was able to whittle down a list of 35-40 potential wrestlers to my current 15 which are: Thomas Gilman (2017), Robert Hamlin (2013), Mack Lewnes (2011), Lance Palmer (2010), Craig Brester (2010), Mike Poeta (2009), Eric Tannenbaum (2008), Sam Hazewinkel (2007), Nick Simmons (2007), Chris Fleeger (2006), Jake Percival (2005), Jon Trenge (2005), Tyrone Lewis (2004), Ryan Lewis (2003), Bryan Snyder (2002).
Ground Rules: I always like to lay out the rationale associated with this list, as well as the eligibility for potential candidates, to avoid questions later. This list will include wrestlers that competed at any time after and including the year 2000. This seemed like a good year to start because the weights were shifted to their current position. It also just sounds better...best since 2000, compared to best since 1990 or something similar. I only considered collegiate careers, so anything post-collegiate is not recognized. Otherwise James Green, for instance, would probably be on my list. Henry Cejudo is not eligible either. My personal preference for this list is guys that have had consistent four-year careers, rather than one or two exceptional years. That isn’t always the case, but more often than not, I’ll go for the longer, more consistent careers.
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